R (Alansi) v Newham London Borough Council [QBD]

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtQueen's Bench Division (Administrative Court)
JudgeMr Justice Stuart-Smith
Judgment Date27 Nov 2013
Neutral Citation[2013] EWHC 3722 (Admin)
Docket NumberCase No: CO/3493/2013

[2013] EWHC 3722 (Admin)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

ADMINISTRATIVE COURT

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Before:

The Honourable Mr Justice Stuart-Smith

Case No: CO/3493/2013

Between:
The Queen on the application of Alansi
Claimant
and
London Borough of Newham
Defendant

Liz Davies (instructed by Edwards Duthie Solicitors) for the Claimant

Christopher Baker (instructed by LB of Newham Legal Services Department) for the Defendant

Mr Justice Stuart-Smith

Introduction

1

The Claimant challenges the Defendant's decision, dated 23 October 2012 and reaffirmed on 24 December 2012, that she is no longer entitled to be treated as being in the Priority Homeseeker category in the Defendant's allocation scheme which came into force in October 2012. She is now in the Homeseeker category. It is common ground that being in the Homeseeker category rather than the Priority Homeseeker category means that she would have no realistic prospect of being allocated a property under the Defendant's allocation scheme.

2

The Claimant submits that events which led to her accepting a qualifying offer of an assured shorthold tenancy in the private sector on 19 January 2010 gave rise to her having a substantive legitimate expectation that she should remain in the Priority Homeseeker category and that her removal from that category is an unlawful abuse of power by the Defendant.

Factual Background

3

In accordance with its statutory obligations, the Defendant has at all material times had in place an allocation scheme, which sets out the mechanism by which the Defendant lets its own properties on secure or introductory tenancies or nominates applicants to private registered landlords. In October 2012 the Defendant implemented a new scheme, in circumstances that will be considered in more detail later. In briefest outline, the Defendant's pre-2012 allocation scheme identified three groups, Priority Homeseekers, Homeseekers and Tenants Seeking Transfer. Vacant properties for permanent accommodation would be advertised and applicants in the Priority Homeseeker group and Tenants Seeking Transfer groups could bid for properties so advertised, with 5% of the advertised properties being the maximum quota that could be let to the group of Tenants Seeking Transfer. In order to qualify for the Priority Homeseeker group an applicant had to satisfy one or more of the "reasonable preference" criteria under s.167 Housing Act 1996.

4

The Defendant has for a long time suffered from a severe shortage of housing which could be used for permanent accommodation; and it has also been under pressure from central government to reduce the numbers of persons in temporary council accommodation provided pursuant to s.193 Housing Act 1996. One way in which the Defendant has tried to reduce the numbers of persons in temporary accommodation was by what is known as a Bond Scheme. The essence of the Bond Scheme is an arrangement between the Defendant and private landlords whereby the Defendant provides an incentive payment and a bond or deposit so that a household (which would typically be in receipt of benefits) can be granted an assured shorthold tenancy in the private sector. The Bond Scheme is run in conjunction with the Defendant's allocation scheme.

5

In January 2005 the Claimant made an application for homelessness assistance to the Defendant. At that time she had one child. In February 2005 the Defendant notified the Claimant that it had accepted a duty to ensure that suitable accommodation was made available to her pursuant to s.193 Housing Act 1996. On 21 March 2005 the Defendant granted the Claimant a non-secure tenancy of two bedroom accommodation as temporary accommodation pursuant to its duty under s.193. While the Claimant was living there, her second child was born in December 2005. In April 2006 the Defendant granted the Claimant a non-secure tenancy of a two bedroom flat which was on the second floor of its building, also as temporary accommodation pursuant to its duty under s. 193. Some two years later, in August 2008, the Claimant had the misfortune to be diagnosed with hypermobility syndrome which gave her pains in the joints and made it difficult for her to climb the stairs to her home. She submitted a medical application regarding the suitability of her home because of the stairs.

6

In September 2008 the Defendant told the Claimant that its medical officer had assessed the medical information that she had submitted and that accommodation would be deemed suitable for her up to the first floor of the building if it did not have a lift and to higher floors with a lift. By implication, this meant that her current accommodation was not suitable. This assessment was confirmed by a letter dated 7 January 2009, by which time the Claimant's third child had been born.

7

On 7 January 2009 the Defendant also notified the Claimant that she would be nominated to alternative temporary accommodation. Because there was a long waiting list the Defendant proposed that the Claimant should consider opting for the Bond Scheme, under which she would be re-housed quicker. The Defendant wrote that if she was re-housed through the Bond Scheme she would "still retain the right to bid for permanent council accommodation". It is clear on the evidence that the reason why this was said was that, in the event that the Claimant (or any other person in her position) pursued the Bond Scheme and took up a private rented tenancy, the Defendant's duty under s.193 would come to an end and, in the absence of such an assurance, the tenant would lose the right to bid for permanent council accommodation. The right to bid for permanent accommodation was a right which the Claimant had been exercising by bidding previously. She had not yet been successful and, in general, even people entitled to reasonable preference faced a long wait before their bids would be successful. In reality, people not entitled to reasonable preference had no hope of securing permanent council accommodation within any reasonably foreseeable timeframe because of restrictions upon their ability to bid. On the evidence, the Defendant's purpose in giving the assurance that the Claimant would retain the right to bid for permanent council accommodation was to induce her to take up a private rented tenancy; it was an inducement because the prospect (however distant) of obtaining permanent council accommodation is regarded by persons being housed by the Defendant as beneficial, for obvious reasons.

8

In October 2009 the Claimant contacted the Defendant about the Bond Scheme as she did not want to remain at her current address. She twice signed a declaration attached to documents issued by the Defendant which explained the Bond Scheme. The document stated that if she accepted a qualifying offer under the Scheme the Defendant's duty to ensure that she had accommodation to occupy would come to an end. It also stated that "if you continue to reside in a property you have accepted as a qualifying offer, your application on the Council's Allocations Scheme will not be affected and you will retain you "Priority Homeseeker" status. You can therefore continue to bid for properties which are advertised under Choice Based Lettings." The declaration which she signed stated "I understand that once I sign a tenancy agreement under the Qualifying Offer Scheme, Newham Council will no longer have a duty towards me and my homeless application will be closed. I will continue to bid for permanent accommodation through the Choice Based Lettings and understand that I retain my priority home seeker status."

9

On 5 January 2010 the Defendant made arrangements for the Claimant to view a three bedroom house which was a private rented property becoming available under the Bond Scheme. On 19 January 2010 the Defendant interviewed the Claimant and informed her (as was recorded in the officer's notes) that if the Claimant accepted the qualifying offer, the homelessness duty would come to an end, but she would retain her Priority Homeseeker status and could continue to bid for permanent accommodation. On the same day, the Claimant signed the assured shorthold tenancy which commenced on 22 January 2010. The Defendant entered into a bond agreement with the landlord, and on 20 January 2010 notified the Claimant that its homelessness duty had come to an end as a result of her acceptance of the qualifying offer of the tenancy. That letter stated "I can confirm that you will retain the Priority Homeseeker status on the council's Allocation Scheme and can continue to bid for properties advertised under Choice Based Lettings."

10

The Claimant continued to bid for permanent accommodation after moving into what became and is still her present home. Her tenancy was for a fixed term of 12 months, at the expiry of which she held over on an assured shorthold periodic tenancy. The consequence of holding over is that, if the landlord wished, her tenure could be ended by the appropriate service of 2 months' notice. There is no suggestion that her landlord has any present intention of ending her tenure. If her tenure were to be ended she would then have to be reassessed by the Defendant. Unless she had herself brought about the termination of her tenure (e.g. by misconduct of some sort) she should again be assessed as homeless and entitled to benefit of the Defendant's s. 193 duty as amended since 9 November 2012. For present purposes, the main difference between the pre-and post-9 November 2012 s. 193 duty is that the post-9 November 2012 duty may be forfeit if a person either accepts or refuses a suitable offer of...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT